Circus Days

Circus Arts Conservatory Goes to Washington

It stars in the 50th anniversary Smithsonian Folklife Festival through July 9.

By Ilene Denton July 5, 2017

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Rafael Palacios and Dolly Jacobs performing at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Image: Cliff Roles

Watching the stars of Circus Sarasota perform under its wonderfully familiar Big Top on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.—and experiencing the roar of delight and appreciation from thousands of circus-goers from around the world—is a moment of civic pride hard to put into words.  

We’re just back from Washington, where we took in the 50th anniversary Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which turned to Sarasota’s very own Circus Arts Conservatory to help carry out this year’s “Circus Arts” theme.

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Sailor Circus performers on the National Mall.

Image: Cliff Roles

The Circus Sarasota Big Top is front and center on the National Mall until July 9 as the main performance venue for the Folklife Festival. Since June 29 (with a break for July Fourth festivities), the Big Top has been home to free performances by our own Sailor Circus and a half-dozen other circus schools from around the country. In addition, 30-some Sailor Circus youngsters are out and about on the National Mall and in the Smithsonian’s iconic art and Industries building greeting festival-goers and showing off their various circus skills.

Sarasota’s circus pros came to play, too. Each evening visitors line up by the thousands for a thrilling 75-minute show billed as the Stars of the Circus. It really is a “best of” collection of Circus Sarasota acts— among them, ringmaster Joseph Dominic Bauer and his heart-stopping Wheel of Destiny act; remarkable acrobats Leosvel Almeida Gutierrez and Diosmani Aguero on the Chinese pole; and, of course, Queen of the Air Dolly Jacobs and her aerial partner, Rafael Palacios. The night we saw it, the audience of 1,500 was continuously up on its feet for standing ovations.

No official attendance numbers yet, but a Folklife Festival spokeswoman told us that "attendance has been strong and extremely diverse." 

Talk about civic pride. Listening to Dolly and her Circus Arts Conservatory co-founder Pedro Reis welcome the audience, just like they do before every Circus Sarasota show back home, we reflected on how alive the circus arts are—in spite of the demise of the Ringling Brothers circus in May. And when Dolly asked, “Is anybody here from Sarasota,” we cheered and cheered.

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Circus Arts Conservatory education staff Karen Bell and Robin Eurich.

Image: Cliff Roles


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